Ms. Demeanor's Vertical Etiquette

Dear Ms. Demeanor: Tipping on a food delivery mix-up

By Jamie Lauren Sutton  | September 22, 2010 - 11:08AM

Dear Ms. Demeanor,

Please settle a dispute between my husband and me: When a restaurant does not deliver the entire order of food and the delivery guy has to come back with the rest of the order, do you tip twice because it wasn't his fault the restaurant messed up? I say 'yes' and hubby says 'no'.

Signed, Once Bitten, Twice Tipped

Dear Bitten,

Ah, you have touched on one of my all-time favorite things about our dear vertical village - never having to say, "I'm sorry, we do not have anything for dinner." Is there anything better than the smell of Chinese/Indian/Japanese/Mexican/Middle Eastern/Thai food wafting through the apartment door as you eagerly open the lock?

Dinner (and breakfast and lunch and snacks and even coffee) is SERVED, over and over again, by intrepid young men on rickety bicycles who risk their lives weaving in and out of traffic to bring it to your door at almost any time, day or night.

Yes, Bitten, you are correct. A tip for each delivery is both appropriate and kind. However, unlike some restaurant delivery websites (SeamlessWeb, for example), I do not believe that the delivery person necessarily always deserves the same proportion of the total bill, as the cost of the delicacies in those plastic bags can vary widely while the level of service remains constant.

Instead, I believe in a fixed price per bag of $2 to $5 depending on (and possibly extra for) inclement weather (is there anything more heart-breaking than opening the door to find a soaked person holding out a soaked plastic bag full of your delicious Chinese food?), distance of the restaurant to your door, and your familiarity with the person holding the bag. If this is his second trip owing to a mistake on the part of the restaurant, a tip on the lower end of that range is fine.

Sincerely, Ms. Demeanor


Ms. Demeanor is channeled by a longtime Manhattan vertical dweller and real-estate voyeur who writes under the pen name Jamie Lauren Sutton. She is here to commiserate, calm and correct. Please email your quandaries to [email protected] and put "Dear Ms. Demeanor" in the subject line.

See all of Ms. Demeanor's advice here.


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